Hi Anthony and welcome to InspiredStartups.com! We have met during my studies with Digital Marketing Institute which you founded with Ian Dodson.
But firstly, tell us a few words about yourself. Where did you begin your startup journey and what motivated you to establish Digital Marketing Institute? How did it all start?
"The Digital Marketing Institute is not my first start-up company. It is about my 5th!
However, to answer your question, I met Ian at the beginning of 2008. We were working in the digital agency space and realised that there was a serious deficiency in the industry around the skills required to plan and deliver digital marketing campaign. None of the schools of colleges or universities had even considered this discipline to be worthy of inclusion in their plans. So we saw this as an opportunity to gain a lead in educating marketers (and later all comers) to understand the new growth area of digital marketing. (Remember, this was the very early days, when traditional media dominated marketing-think). We delivered the first ever Professional Diploma in Digital Marketing (anywhere in the world!) in Dublin in January 2009.
Since then, we have gone on to train in excess of 7,500 globally in various courses.
We currently design and deliver digital marketing courses at various levels, from entry through to a fully accredited Masters in Digital Marketing. We deliver these courses in the classroom directly in cities in Ireland and UK, online through our comprehensive Learning Management System and directly to corporate clients across the globe (we have just completed a training digital agencies in Malaysia and San Francisco. Finally, we are delivering our education and accreditation programmes in about 25 countries through an extensive partner network. Digital Marketing Institute is now the global accrediting body for digital marketers."
Digital Marketing Institute has a compelling and innovative business and educational model. Could you tell us how you differentiate from other training providers?
"Early in my career, somebody gave me a piece of advice - they said “Get Big, Get Niche or Get Out”. We are very, very niche. What we do is focus entirely on digital marketing. We do not try to be a generalist. We are not expanding our portfolio to be all thing to all people. Other training providers that we have seen come and go; all see digital marketing as a route to success. But they simply do not understand that this sector is in a growth phase and is therefore changing before our eyes. Investment is required to ensure that the course content (syllabus) is kept up to date. Most private training companies do not have the same level of commitment to creating and updating their syllabus as the Digital Marketing Institute.
We also compete, from time to time, with university sector. These guys, by their very nature, are slow to change (they sit under the “BIG” banner). But I am sure that they will turn the ship eventually and realise that digital marketing is here to stay!"
Digital Marketing Institute was founded in 2008 to provide training in digital marketing throughout Ireland. Since then the Dublin-based Digital Marketing Institute has expanded to Europe, Middle East, Central America, Asia and Africa. How did your business grow out of the startup stage and what role did scalability play in the overall success? Would you like to share some scalability tips with our startup community?
"While we started as a training company, we quickly realised that this was a scalable company. If you are trying to scale your business, ensure that you manage to commoditize it before someone else does. We brought together some of the leaders in the digital world (including Twitter, Facebook, Microsoft, Google and so on) and created an Advisory Council. The work of this Council ensures that we have product suite that matches the industry requirements. We have since “boxed up” our training products (to included syllabus, slide-ware, notes, case studies, videos, train-the-trainer, etc) and now ship this product to partners across the globe."
You partnered with Ian Dodson when starting the Digital Marketing Institute. What do you need to consider when choosing your partners from the very beginning? Who makes the final decisions and what happens if you disagree?
"Make sure to work with someone that you get on with, can discuss various options for the business and make decision fast. All decisions are made together."
What do you love about being an entrepreneur? Willing to share least favourite parts as well?
"CHANGE, EXCITEMENT, ANTICIPATION, EXPECTATION, FEAR, UNCERTAINTY, CHALLENGE.
See above for the least favourite parts too!"
Apart from the Digital Marketing Institute, you have also built and sold a number of other successful ventures. What is your best piece of advice for young entrepreneurs?
"Find a sale quickly (preferably before you have built the product). Too many entrepreneurs never get to market because they are constantly trying to “perfect the product”. If can sell what you have, then you know that there is a demand. If you cannot sell it, then find someone who can. If they can’t sell it, then get out quick. If you are going to fail, then fail fast."
Any big mistakes you did and could advise other early-stage entrepreneurs on how to avoid them?
"I have made loads of mistakes. But you learn from them all the time. The biggest mistake is not selling what you have because you want to perfect it. Just sell! And be very careful hiring - great people are hard to find."
What are your plans for the future?
"Let’s see if we can grow the Digital Marketing Institute to be a real global leader in this space."
Finally, 3 words to describe yourself?
"Honest, Passionate, Paranoid."
Finally, where can our startup community find you online?
Thanks Anthony for sharing your valuable insights with our startup community. I wish Digital Marketing Institute continued success in supporting students and professionals throughout their digital marketing journey!